On the Ranch...

On the Ranch Journal
December, 1999
by Cris Paravicini

December brings cold weather and snow to the ranch. Supplemental feeding begins and all creatures, domestic and wild, struggle to get by day to day during Wyoming's winter...

Cowboy Bob & Mrs Magic
Cowboy Bob & Mrs. Magic
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December 1 - Cowboy Wedding
December 6 - Merry Christmas, John Deere Tractor Company!
December 7 - Supplemental feeding begins
December 8 - Wiley coyotes
December 10 - Todd & Clown
December 11 - Bull roundup
December 14 - New tractor door arrives
December 18 - Moving and sorting cows out of the Cora Valley
December 19 - Into the Swamp
December 21 - Bonnie learns that porcupines don't make good toys
December 23 - The big full moon
December 24 - Todd gets to meet the ladies
December 25 - Christmas
December 26 - And more hay
December 27 - Chores, chores, chores
December 28 - New calving sheds
December 29 - Brucellosis vaccinating
December 31 - Sunburn
December 31- Accordian Duets

Little Joe - A Christmas Poem

Cowboy Wedding

Wednesday, December 1 - Seems our entire county is excited about and making preparations for the upcoming wedding of one of our well-respected ranch neighbors and a lovely, little gal from Pinedale. Ever wonder why cowboys always get hitched when the work's all done in the fall or after the irrigating water is turned on in the springtime?

The Cowboy Wedding
A poem by Cris Paravicini

Cowboy Wedding

Merry Christmas, John Deere Tractor Company!

Monday, December 6 - Merry Christmas, John Deere Tractor Company!I'll be purchasing $225 worth of merchandise from you, shortly... 

This week is as chilly, windy, and dismal as last week, and to top it off, some of the crew has been sick for the past few days. When this happens, we take turns shouldering each other's duties. So as the story goes and the winter's early darkness crept across the valley, 'twas I who fired up the John Deere tractor to finish the last chore of the day - fetching a round bale from the river hay pen for tomorrow's calf feed. No full moon tonight - can't see the cow's nose in front of my face. But, not a problem, I thought; this fancy tractor has running lights that'll set the night ablaze; pull a couple of switches here, a couple of knobs there, and we'll look like a Christmas tree that'll be seen clean across the county. 

I've been getting along fairly well with this new 4x4 tractor since I finished my brief, "correspondence" course via my "always-in-a-big-hurry" husband. I can now lift, tilt, bend, twist, and maneuver every accessory part in any direction imaginable - almost at will. I'm even getting pretty good at sneaking up on a bale of hay, running the grapple thingy through it, then loading the 1500-pound bale onto the wagon in the exact spot where it won't dump the whole load. Yip, me and that big, ol' tractor can do-si-do in and around the gates, corrals, electrical wires, and livestock pretty danged confidently. At least I thought so, until tonight. 

After the hay was loaded, I cautiously started to maneuver the tractor back under the shed where we bed 'er down each night. I was proud of myself, helping out and all, and now I was concentrating hard, trying not to ram the tractor loader into the salt pallets or the antique cement mixer on my right hand side. And I was being extra fussy not to scrape along the rough lumber walls with the mammoth tires on the left side. Yip, it was going to be a tight squeeze, but I was up for it. 

Suddenly, a shot heard round the ranch echoed from the dark shadows and crashed at my feet in a heap of tinkling glass. You guessed it! After I'd unhooked from the hay wagon, I'd left the tractor door open at an unhealthy angle, and when this big, ol' glass door met the shop's tall timbers, it underwent a challenge not anticipated by the John Deere design team. 

Close the door! Close the door! Close that danged door! The memory of Rudy's repeated orders banged at my numb skull like a sledge hammer, and my heart and my throat lay on the ground amongst the pieces of shattered safety glass. Safety glass, my rear end! Anyhow, Merry Christmas John Deere, and God speed the UPS! 

I weaned eight-month old Sunny this morning. I put Pony in with him for company, but he didn't even notice that the mare was gone until a whole day had passed. Then the pitiful little colt set up a commotion and so did his mom - nickering and running along the corral fence. I know how the mare must feel. A few years ago, they weaned me from my son when he went off to college clear across the high, wide, and lonesome State of Wyoming. 

Supplemental feeding begins

Tuesday, December 7 - We started feeding the herd bulls in the big meadow. The older bulls are looking slick and fat, but the younger two and three-year olds are starting to fall off on their weight a little bit. Therefore, we decided it was time to throw out a partial feed and let 'em rustle through the fall grass for the rest of their daily grub. We feed extra salt and mineral supplements and make sure they have plenty of water. Critters can survive extreme weather if these needs are met each day. 

Wiley coyotes

Wednesday, December 8 - The dogs are usually pretty quiet, but last night they barked on and off all night long. The moose are starting to roam through the willows, and those danged coyotes are yipping and ki-yi-ing just a short ways from our bedroom window. They have a habit of teasin' the dogs in that sneaky coyote way that always stirs 'em up. Coyotes have a unique style of barking when they're feeling mischievous - you can hear it in the pattern of their bark. They'll tip their heads back, loosen up their vocal cords, and make your dog think he's missing out on all the fun. 

You betcha, just like sailors listening to the sirens at sea, this coyote choir is really talented at luring a dog into their wild domain. Then, slick as a whistle, they'll take great pleasure in killing your favorite hound. 

Many times over the years, we've been riding along on horseback with the dogs following along on our heels, just as a good cowdog oughta do. Suddenly, as if from nowhere, a lone coyote will fall in behind or to the side of us, keeping pace, taunting and coaxing at the dogs, and trying to draw them away from us. If you let a coyote have his way, the minute he and your dog disappear from sight, several more coyotes will surely join this single trickster and promptly and efficiently rip your ol' dog to bits. 

Our neighbors once had their dog attacked by coyotes in this exact manner. The pack chewed and ripped at her and left the little ragged carcass for dead in a willow patch. My friends looked high and low for the little female pet, but could not find her. Then a couple of days later, Muffin dragged herself onto their front porch. The tough little "gal" had survived the attack, but barely, and is still alive today to remember the story. Most dogs, however, aren't so lucky. 

I once read about a 20-year study explaining how coyotes are territorial and will spend their entire life cycle living in and protecting one area, unless they're forced out. The writing suggested that if you aren't having any coyote trouble, such as the loss of young livestock or pets or chickens, then don't kill any of your coyotes or the new batch that moves in might be rogues with an unsavory attitude. We've found this theory to be true (we've only had two killer coyotes in forty years), so we don't allow aerial and snowmobile hunting of the ranch's coyote population. 

I always loved my grandpa's story of how on one, warm, summer's day he'd watched a coyote step nimbly and purposefully into a river. My grandpa said that, curiously, the coyote pulled a big chunk of shedding fur from its side, then very slowly moved deeper and deeper into the water until nothing but the coyote's sharp nose and the cream-colored piece of fur was sticking above the water's surface. The cunning beast then released the flea-infested fur into the current and it floated silently away. Evidently, my grandpa concluded, as the coyote slowly sank beneath the water, its flea population kept heading for high, dry "ground." That small chunk of fur became the last hope on the sinking "Titanic." Danged smart coyote! 

Todd & Clown

Friday, December 10 - We bought a new yearling buck sheep a few days ago. He's a Suffolk breed - black face and legs, and a creamy-white body. He weighs in at 175 pounds and hails from the Bridger Valley in southern Wyoming. His name is Todd, aptly and traditionally named by my sister in honor of his previous owner. Todd will be meetin' his new harem on Christmas Eve, which will cause the progeny from this meeting to be born, starting about May 21. This Suffolk-Columbia cross will taint the wool with black fibers when we shear his offspring and him this spring, but we're not gonna worry, because for quite a number of years, we haven't received a good price for even the premium-grade white wool. On the plus side, though, Todd's bloodline will add some weight to our lambs, and hopefully, a few more coins in our pockets. 

In the meantime, we'll have to keep Todd in solitary confinement with only "the babysitter" until the Eve of his release. This babysitter's name is Clown, a "beefy" ten-year old pet wether (neutered buck). I named him Clown when he was just a few days old. He and his sister started out as triplets that needed my help getting into this world. But, by the time I could untangle their 12 toothpick legs and trace which one of the three tiny heads went with which set of legs, the third lamb didn't make it. The mom then got milk fever a day or so later and became critically ill. 

Many times when an animal gets sick right after labor, she'll bum or orphan her offspring. This was not the case with this ewe, however. She dearly loved those lambs. Even when she was so sick that I was certain she would die, she bleated weakly until I bedded them down beside her.

Whenever I checked in on the little family, the little buck lamb would be lying right on top of his mom's back as if he was watching over her. He would see me coming and leap into the air, then bounce across the barn to greet me like he was riding a pogo stick. This always made me laugh even during the darkest hour, so I named him Clown. 

Clown's mom lived, but her milk dried up and most of her wool fell out in big chunks. I had already started supplementing her "kids" when she first got sick, and thereafter had to continue the feedings all summer long. The lambs technically were "bums," but they loved their mom and stayed with her except for twice-a-day bottles of milk from me... 

Today, I felt sorry for poor Clown, again. How sad he looked when I cut him away from "his" girls a couple of days after Todd arrived. This was the third buck he'd had to "sit" with, and though he knew the routine, Clown was over it. For a while, he bleated and walked the corral fence with Todd keeping a nuisance pace. Soon Clown resigned himself to the task at hand and started eating hay. Now, twice each day, when I feed, water, and grain the pair, Clown trots up to me and cocks his head as if to ask, "Won't you p-l-l-e-ease put my name in for a transfer outta here? This new kid's not my idea of fun!" The babysitter

But, I just pat Clown on the head and reach into my coat pocket for a pellet treat, trying my best to make it up to him. "Hang in there, old buddy," I tell him. "You're almost there." 

Besides, Clown, you shouldn't feel so bad. Right over the fence in the next corral is another babysitter. Yip! Pony the Wonder Horse. Pony is feeling pretty cocky these days. He's the boss man. King of the Hill. It's a rare day when he gets to claim this title, because half-pint horses in a pasture filled with big boys never, ever, get to prove themselves. Nope, not in the pasture! 

But in the corral, Pony has the world by the tail and Sunny the Colt for a shadow. Since the big weaning occurred more than a week ago, Sunny hasn't let his Pony pal out of sight. Yes, this chubby, mini-horse with the foundered feet is mighty important right now - to all of us.

Bull Roundup

Saturday, December 11 - Today, it was time for some health maintenance on the herd bulls, so we gathered them from the big meadow, drove 'em to the corrals, and worked each one through the chute. I say "each one," because we have to baby these big fellows, individually. I swear that by some prehistoric rule of nature, whenever you even look like you might be thinkin' of roundin' up an Angus bull, he's ready to fight - not the cowboys, but rather, his own bosom buddies - the boys he chummed with all summer. Heck, if you even open your mouth to say "Head 'em up; move 'em out!" - it's war. They'll butt heads and push and ram each other - sort of settin' the male peckin' order, I guess. We usually joke that we need Michael Buffer here on horseback to holler out - "Let's get ready to r-r-r-u-u-m-m-ble!" 

Today, as we rounded 'em up, they gave us the same line of bull as always, engaging in little skirmishes and mini battles all the way across the meadow, down the lane, and into the corral. Now, you gotta know, we always try to handle these temperamental brats with kid gloves, so we don't add fuel to their fire. As I've said before, it wouldn't be a purty sight if a pair of these "bull"dozers mowed you down in the prime of your life. And, it is mighty painful on the pocketbook when they upend each other and break their dang-fool legs. When this happens, and it does, you've got a pretty good plate load of Bar S Bologna in the making. 

As it turned out, though, we all survived the day quite nicely, thank you. Oh, we had a few head-butts here and a pushin' snafu there, but the corral fences and gates were still standin' tall when we headed out for the Cottonwood Patch - ye olde wintering grounds for these bad boys.

New tractor door arrives

Tuesday, December 14 - My Christmas present arrived this afternoon, so Rudy and I set to work installing it, or should I say re-installing it. A brand-new, beautiful, intact, all-glass John Deere tractor door! Just what I've always wanted! While I'll never live it down, the tension has eased off a bit since I rubbed shoulders with the shop wall the other night. I've even been able to tease Rudy about his way "cool" tractor. And with the ol' thermometer hittin' minus 25 degrees this morning, it danged sure was cool! Yip, I'm now off probation and am allowed to drive the tractor again. And you know what? Since making the repairs, Rudy has been especially gentlemanly and understanding. Yip, he's been openin' and closin' that tractor door every time I set foot in it. You gotta love it!Close the door!

But, I am curious...Is this just a woman driver thing, or are there any men out there who've totally wiped out a glass tractor door, too?

From our spread to yours, I'm hollerin' out a good, old-fashioned cowboy message to y'all - MERRY CHRISTMAS, FOLKS! I hope all your waterholes are ice-free and your livestock standin' knee-deep in green hay. And from the bottom of my heart, I'm sending this special wish to you and yours: May the Holy Day be warm and peaceful, and especially filled with love and contentment. 

Moving and sorting cows out of the Cora Valley

Saturday, December 18 - We burned most of the today's daylight sorting and hauling cattle out of the Cora Valley, fifteen miles from the main ranch. We had summered a few head of dry cows on a pretty little stream called The New Fork, which meanders through the valley's lovely ranch country. These veteran "ladies" had either lost their spring calves from birthing problems, spring storms, or illness, or weren't with calf this season. Storms acomin'

Also turned out on pasture with them, were our heifers (coming two-year olds that will have their first calf this spring). After we got the cattle home, we sorted the older gals away from the heifers, then drove the matronly bunch through the blowin', driftin' snow to a nearby swamp pasture. With a diet of frozen, wild grass and mineral and salt supplements, they will maintain their sleek, fat condition for two to three more weeks or until Old Man Winter gets serious about his job. At that time, we'll start rolling a full feed of hay to 'em. 

As for the young ladies, we started them on a complete ration of everything we could get our hands on, because their still-growing bodies and unborn calves need lots of TLC.


Into the Swamp

Sunday, December 19 - We pushed the main herd from Horse Creek into the swamp to join yesterday's bunch. Deep within its borders, lies plenty of protection from the icy winds and snowstorms in the form of bushy willows and frozen alkali bumps. The cows always seem to know when it's time to head for the swamp. We just give a whoop and a holler and they string out Evening Chilland march right along, anxious to burrow into the fresh feed. To them, it must seem like a much-needed vacation in a tropical paradise. We'll continue to check them every day and chop the ice out of the waterholes that are scattered along the entire length of the pasture. 

Later in the evening, we traveled to an old country church in the neighboring community of Bondurant to attend the children's Christmas program. The kids (five in all), who attend the small country school (one of the smallest in Wyoming), and their teacher, treated us to a wonderful show. Several community members and ranchers also participated in the program, singing Christmas songs, reading cowboy poetry, and playing guitars, an accordian, and a fiddle.

.Bonnie learns that porcupines don't make good toys

porcupineTuesday, December 21 - Earlier this fall, the cow pups found the smelly remains of a porcupine scattered along the highway near the ranch. Of course, when I wasn't looking, they dragged the ragged, decaying ol' thing into the yard for a playmate. I stole the carcass away from them and burned it, but kept finding chunks of rotting hide and quills strewn around the yard. From then on, I had the daily ritual of cussin' "Danged Busybody Dogs!" as I pulled quills out of their feet or noses or backs - the end product of foolishly rolling about with the well-seasoned critter. 

I thought I'd finally gathered up the last of the prickly beast and had all my busy, little "pin-cushions" quill-free. Tonight, however, nearly two months later, Bonnie had something working its way through a small lump on her lower jaw. My son John found the trouble when he snagged his hand on a tiny, pin-like protrusion while petting her. Poor Bonnie! The tricks and indignation a dog must endure during a quill-pulling party! She squirmed and struggled, but stayed tough throughout the wrestling match. She didn't utter even the slightest whimper while Rudy and John pinned her down on the living room floor while I, armed with the needle-nosed pliers, pulled a little hair and hide with each wigglin' pinch. Finally, I zigged when Bonnie did and successfully latched on to the nasty, little "spear" with the microscopic fishhook tentacles. I gripped it hard, stretching her lip out like a rubberband. Then Yeow! Out came the one-inch long, black and white "spear". We all rubbed at our own bottom jaw as we held the ill-fated quill against the light and inspected the object of Bonnie's sad-eyed irritation. What a heck of a fine dog, Bonnie! Ya made it through another page in my cow dog tales!

Busy Bonnie

Happy New Year to all my family and friends out there - wherever you may be! I'm really glad we've made it to the last, big gate. You bet! It's high time to kick our horses into a fast lope and ride whoopin' and hollerin' straight through all this business of "millennium" and "Y2K" and "2000" and find us a new "bug" to herd on down the trail. Lately, though, I've had one final ponder about it all. Has anyone registered Y2K or 2000 (TwoTripleOtt) as a livestock brand? They'd surely make one heck of a nice brand. The Old Y2K Ranch. The TwoTripleOtt Spread. Really has a nice ring to it, don't you think? Anyhow, cinch 'em down, folks, and I'll race you to the other side of midnight!

The big full moon

Thursday, December 23 - Happy Birthday, Mom! We started hauling another 100 round bales out of the Cora Valley. Using two flatbed, fifth-wheel (gooseneck) trailers, we can haul about 12 bales each trip. We make two trips a day before dark - when the "No Over-sized Loads on the Highway After Dark!" rule kicks in. But...last night it didn't get very dark, because that BIG, Round hay balesbeautiful "once every century" moon lit up the night like a million country lanterns. It was an awesome sight to behold! I hear tell that the last folks to see this moon were some Sioux Indians and General George Armstrong Custer! What a wonderful night to take a stroll with a loved one! However, Rudy didn't agree - said "Ma, I've seen lots of full moons before, and it's cold out there, and the wind's a blowin', and what the heck do ya wanna do that for, anyhow?" Yip. Maybe in another hundred years...

Todd gets to meet the ladies

Friday, December 24 - Christmas Eve! Hauled more hay...Bo and Bonnie are pigging out on field mice hibernating under the bales. And today, bright and early, as I had promised the young buck, Todd, I opened the corral gate and let his "roommate babysitter" Clown, whisk him off to the pasture to meet the ladies. This turnout date will make the lambs start dropping about May 20, 2000, which will give us time to get the ewes sheared before the little ones arrive. Since many of the large sheep ranches are selling out in our neighboring counties, the 5 - 7-man Australian/New Zealand shearing crews no longer come through our neck of the woods. Unfortunately, this creates a massive headache, because now we've inherited the job of shearing/picking/peeling/pulling/praying the wool off the sheep. I don't know how the professionals do it day in and day out - for months on end. Quite the craft, this art of sheep shearing. Each of these men can shear up to 100 head a day. Once, I put the stopwatch on a very talented fellow from New Zealand. He zipped the wool off one of my big, pasture-raised pets in 1 minute and 20 seconds with not one nick or cut. That's 80 mighty fast seconds! Start to finish. No joke! However, when Rudy and I fire up the old clippers, a ewe (or Rudy or I) could easily bloat and die (she, on her back, and we, bent over her heavy wool coat) while we're coaxing and coercing the wool off her. This hasn't happened yet, but we do warn each other when one of us appears to be flat-lining. Stay tuned, folks, for more on that lively event about May 10, 11,12, 2000!


Saturday, December 25 - After feeding the now-on-hay livestock and checking the swamp Pony & Sunnycattle, the whole crew had Christmas dinner here in my bunkhouse. Dessert included a little Denver Bronco Football (minus Pony! - he'd made other plans). The weather has been unbelievable this month with no snowstorms yet on the horizon and a basking 45 degrees by high noon every day. Ain't gonna cuss and complain, though. We'll get all we need and more during calving time.

And more hay

Sunday, December 26 - Hauled MORE hay today...Bo and Bonnie STILL hitting the "all you can eat" rodent smorgasbord...

Chores, chores, chores

Monday, December 27 - Finished the hay-hauling project! Trimmed the pony's feet. Promised Sunny I'd be breaking him to lead next week. Nodded "Howdy" to the worn out little buck. Cleaned the chicken coop and put new storm plastic on their windows. Fed the barn cats. Dumped a coffee can full of pellets in the snow for Heidi and Cowgirl - the aloof, vacationing Brown Swiss and Jersey milk cows that are "not giving milk at the moment, thank you very much!" Swept the floor in the tack room. Getting down to zero by nightfall, so I built a wood fire. Cooked supper - deer steak, biscuits, green beans, and cherry pie. Winter Cowboy

Dogs pretty filled up on mice. Gave 'em some frozen bones to chew on. Made note to order worm pills. One evening, not too long ago, the dogs and I were homeward bound when Bonnie took off like a gale of hen feathers into the willows next to the house. She pounced and sniffed through the dead grass, then proceeded on down into the dry irrigating ditch. Bo just ignored her little escapade and headed into the house to lay down by the fire. By the time I'd finished filling the wood box, Bonnie had returned and was innocently looking up at me with that soft, big, brown eye, and that shiny, big, blue eye. "Okay, get along on in there with Bo," I told her, motioning her through the door. Still, she waited, cocking her head as if to ask, "Are you really sure about that?" Well, about that time, the porch light shed knowledge on her tell"tail" secret. Though she was very closed-mouthed about it all, I could see a mouse's tail hanging out from between her front teeth, and it was still movin'. Dang it, Bonnie! Tryin' to sneak a mouse into the house! I just don't like when she does that.

The new calving sheds

Tuesday, December 28 - Rudy and Son John worked on the new calving sheds in the big Big Moonmeadow. We're using two, old, loose-hay cribs that we hauled log by log to the site of the existing calving stalls. Rudy plans to cut a door out of one side, nail poles from one end to the other, and then top it with 1/2-inch plywood. This project utilizes the discarded century-old way of storing hay and gives the creaking timbers a chance to still be useful - sort of a new lease on life, literally. Then, come a spring blizzard circa 2000, the newborn calves and their moms will think they've been bedded down in the presidential suite of the White House.

Brucellosis vaccinating

Wednesday, December 29 - The vet came by today to brucellosis vaccinate (a one-time-only vaccine) our young heifer calves (between the ages of 4 and 12 months). To prevent this bacterial infection, which causes a variety of animals to abort their offspring, each season my family hasLittle Cowgirlimplemented the "bangs" program in our replacement heifers for well over 50 years. In humans, brucellosis is called undulant fever. Son John helped push the heifers to the vet, one at a time, down the stock chute so he could give the shot and snap a proof-of-vaccine identification tag and tattoo number in each young lady's ear. Today, John worked alone behind the cows, but sometimes when friends or family stop by with their kids, we give the little fellers a job so they can learn the "ropes" of ranching, too. 

Friday, December 31 - A pet chicken died this morning. I was inspired to write the follow essay about her:


At chore time this morning, Sunburn was dead, already frozen stiff from last night's ten below zero. She looked peaceful, though, still tucked in the hay I'd fluffed around her the evening before. But, as I swung the chicken coop door open, the flock hungrily tramped across her withered carcass, stirring and staining her sorrel-colored feathers. For them, Sunburn wasn't even there and never had been. Not to be halted in their daily ritual, these one- and two-year old egg-laying machines came and went like robots, from the scratch pen to the nest boxes and back again, faltering only on the little bump along their pathway. 

Sunburn, the Rhode Island Red hen, had lived here on the ranch for nearly eight years. She had been a good hen - wasn't flighty or mean, and as though her life depended on it, she had laid golden-brown eggs throughout four good seasons. Afterwards, a rarity for any chicken, Sunburn entered a four-year retirement stage. Normally, we keep our laying hens about two or three years, then butcher off the oldest "stewing" hens each fall to make room for the incoming pullets. It wasn't because she'd provided us with so many dozens of eggs that I let her keep her head, but rather, it was the circumstances of her "birth." 

Nearly every spring for more than 15 years, usually between April 25 and May 10, I haul a setting hen and a half dozen fertile eggs to the Pinedale kindergarten room. I always tell the kids that "Calving time is much too hectic for us to take care of all the little hens that wish to be mothers, so we're lookin' for some hard-workin' little folks, who might be willing to babysit a 'Magic!' hen for about 21 days." 

And so it goes - each school day, the kids set out fresh water, grain and food scraps, and keep tender watch over the statuesque mother-to-be. After the hatch (or sometimes non-hatch), the hen and her family return to the ranch where I faithfully promise to continue with the kids' loyal watch. High school students up to seventeen years old still ask about Sonia or Henrietta or Sassy or Mrs. Magic or Shasta. How could I ever sharpen my axe, then cook and eat chicken and noodles that are named Cowboy Bob or Midnight or Fluffy or Stripe or Speedy or Peep or Sunburn? 

Sunburn had grown progressively weaker during the past two weeks, becoming more and more dependent on her chore girl. Her feathers were dull and ruffled, and her neck and chest were bulging with puss-filled fluid, but still, she clung to life. Each day Sunburn waited at the coop door for me and the morning slop pail. She would stand feebly between my feet while I poured the steaming pudding into the rubber, half-tire feeder, then frantically peck and stuff the scraps into her swollen craw - safely out of the cruel reaches of "the pecking order." 

When it was time for me to leave the hen house, I filled an old tin cup with mushy grain and hid Sunburn and the bent tin in a safe corner so she could eat her meal in peace. During evening chores, I would scoop her into my hand, pat her head, and tuck her into one of the cozy, hay-filled nest boxes. 

Now, as I hold what remains of her, I wonder, as I have many times before: How do you give a proper burial to such a special hen, especially when the ground is held so firmly in winter's cold embrace? Somehow it didn't seem right to casually toss her remains into the manure pile or the burner barrel, or let the dogs or coyotes or fox scatter her remains up and down the valley. So I simply, humbly eulogized Sunburn by saying, "You've been a good, little chicken, and you've done a mighty fine job," then I tossed her husk into the purring mouth of the hungry hayloft - Sunburn's last supper. I figured she would understand. 

Cowboy Bob, how are you weatherin' this winter, little buddy?

Accordian Duets

Friday, December 31 - evening...Rudy and I played some cowboy music - accordian duets - for a New Year's Eve party held at the retirement home - the Sublette Center - in Pinedale. We had a great time! Although no one was able to dance, everyone tapped their toes and clapped their hands to the rhythm of the old-time polkas, two-steps, and waltzes.

The Pearson Angus Ranch is located approximately 2 miles northwest of Daniel, and 11 miles west of Pinedale, Wyoming. Cris can be reached by e-mail at: cowgirl@wyoming.com.

Copyrights: Photos and page text content copyrighted, Cris Paravicini, 1999. No part may be reproduced without permission of the author/photographer. Page graphics copyrighted, Pinedale Online, 1999.

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